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Independence for Kosovo is clearly justified. There is a strong moral argument in favor. Kosovo’s majority Albanian population was treated abominably when under the control of Serbia in the 1990s. And the campaign of ethnic cleansing unleashed in 1999 by the Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic, destroyed Belgrade’s legitimacy in the region.

There is a practical justification, too. After years of patience, some leaders of Kosovo’s majority ethnic-Albanian leaders threaten to declare unilateral independence unless they see a real prospect of autonomy within a year. There has been an ominous upsurge in violent incidents since Mr. Ahtisaari unveiled his plan.

As U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned [this week], further delay would have disastrous consequences for the Balkans. Another outbreak of hostilities could wreck the progress of the past eight years. And the longer the delay, the more risky the situation becomes.